Thursday, January 1, 2004

Happy New Year

I have been in Kosovo for the past two and half (2.5) years now.  While many people complain about how horrible it is, I can see that a lot has changed for the better since August 2000 when I first visited.  I remember the days when you didn't know if you could cook dinner because the power might go out, mornings where you took a cold shower out of a bottle, piles of burning rubbish on the streets, packs of wild dogs roaming the streets, and worse to all...bad pizza was all you could find to eat (ketchup as tomato sauce, bologna as meat!)

The power still occasionally goes out but life goes on.  At least it is regulated now (5 on: 1 off,, 4 on: 2 off during peak hours.)   Winter is a little worse than the rest of the year because power consumption goes up due to heating...the worst I can remember the winter of 2002/3 when it was one on/five off for a week or two (usually it is four on/two off.) The winter of 2003/4 was not that bad. Yes, the temperatures dipped down into the low teens but the power was only regulated to four on/two off during the worst days (maybe three hours off every once in awhile.)

There is still an estimated 50,000 stray dogs in Kosovo but there is a Humane Society trying to help take care of the problem.  I have taken two litters of puppies born in the UN compound to their facility in the hopes that they'll go to good homes.  Plus I did take that one special (sometimes I think he's "little yellow bus special" but I still love him) puppy home :)

There are some problems with crime.  Last month just after I left, we had reports that unknown persons booby-trapped two UN Police vehicles with hand grenades.  Luckily, no was was injured because the officers were aware of their surroundings enough to find them.  Additionally, there has been a group of men attacking women and stealing their handbags.  Two ladies from my office have been mugged but fortunately, the assailants did not manage to steal their bags.  Petty and organized crime are two problems that Kosovo still faces and the UN along with local authorities will need to work on resolving.

Overall, I have learned quite a bit about myself in the time I have been in Kosovo.  I think that when you come to a mission, you discover new things about yourself that you might not have in a comfortable environment.  I made great friends from all around the world and learned much about the world around us for a unique perspective that I might not have gotten elsewhere.